RCA’s answer to the progressive rock craze that was sweeping music in the late Sixties and early Seventies was the ill-fated “Neon” label which managed only 11 albums in 2 years (1971 to 1972). Complete with weird artwork in a lavish gatefold sleeve (obligatory for all these releases it seemed) - names such as Centipede, Fair Warning, Shape Of The Rain and Tonton Macoute – don’t exactly role off the tongue - even now. None of them sold jack – and the oddball folk ensemble Dando Shaft and their self-titled 2nd album - was no different.
Released in the UK in 1971 on RCA Neon NE 5, “Dando Shaft” has therefore long since been a genuine rarity and is presently listed at £100 in the 2010 Record Collector Rare Record Price Guide (I’ve seen copies maybe twice in my life), and it will no doubt triple that value in the 2013 edition due September 2010. That said - this limited edition European CD is a welcome reissue because this is one of those rare occasions where even three figures on a disc is money well spent. It’s a beautiful album and this reissue does it proud.
DANDO SHAFT were formed in 1969 in Cambridge, England and featured:
POLLY BOLTON – Lead Vocals
MARTIN JENKINS – Lead & Backing Vocals, Mandolin and Violin
DAVE COOPER – Lead & Backing Vocals and Guitar
KEVIN DEMPSEY – Lead & Backing Vocals, Guitar and Bass
ROGER BULLEN – Bass
TED MAY – Percussion
Akarma AK 255 was released in June 2003 in Italy and features a repro 5” hard-card gatefold sleeve with a slightly stippled effect (the inner bag advertises other Akarma rarity reissues). It breaks down as follows (42:48 minutes):
1. Coming Home To Me [Polly Bolton and Martin Jenkins on Shared Lead Vocals]
2. Railway [Polly Bolton only on Lead Vocals]
3. Whispering Ned [Martin Jenkins only on Lead Vocals]
4. Sometimes [Dave Cooper on Lead Vocals, Polly Bolton on Backing Vocals]
5. River Boat [Polly Bolton on Lead Vocals]
6. Kalyope Driver [Martin Jenkins on Lead Vocals, Polly Bolton and Dave Cooper on Backing Vocals]
7. Waves Upon The Ether [Martin Jenkins on Lead Vocals, Polly Bolton and Dave Cooper on Backing Vocals]
8. Dewet [an instrumental, Kevin Dempsey on Acoustic Guitar with Martin Jenkins on Mandolin]
9. Till The Morning Comes [Kevin Dempsey and Polly Bolton on Shared Lead Vocals]
10. Pass It On [Dave Cooper on Lead Vocals, Polly Bolton and Kevin Dempsey on Backing Vocals]
11. Prayer [Dave Cooper only on Lead Guitar and Vocals]
12. Lullaby [“Spring Clog Dance” Demo]
13. Thruxton [Instrumental]
14. Spring Clog Dance (1970 UK 7” single version on RCA Records RCA 2246)
15. Sun Clog Dance [Original Demo For “Spring Clog Dance”]
The repro artwork is very tastily done and the inside gatefold gives music and production credits. It doesn’t advise who remastered this or where, but the sound is shockingly clear – really clean and hiss free – and because it’s all acoustic instrumentation, it sounds glorious. Even the rare bonus tracks are sweet as…
Musically this is English folk for sure, but not overtly so – there’s a Pentangle rock-song feel to a lot of it somehow. Another comparison would be to a lovely Irish duo called "Tir Na N'Og" (it’s Gaelic for "Land Of The Young") who had three albums on Chrysalis Records in the early Seventies and later morphed into the wonderfully eccentric "Scullion" (a further 3 albums). Those references may be a little vague I know, but that’s what Dando Shaft sound like - Folk with an eccentric rock twist.
They also housed (as you can see from the details) no less that THREE lead vocalists and had lovely – even beautiful – songs. “Sometimes” is very simple and gorgeous, while “Kalyope Driver” is driven by folk mandolin and a relentlessly upbeat set of lyrics (title above). The less-than-one-minute instrumental “Dewit” shows off their playing virtuosity while “Till The Morning Comes” features superb counter-vocals from Polly Bolton and Kevin Dempsey with flute and bass backing them up. It ends in the very short but sweet “Prayer”.
I doubt “Dando Shaft” will be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s an album I’d suggest you try to rediscover. If you want an audio taster, try iTunes for the track called “Rain” – it’s off the superb “Anthems In Eden” CD box set – and that’ll give you a real indicator to their sound…
A lovely thing really – and well worth seeking out.